I love Budapest. How much? As the song goes: “As for me / ‘Pest is my Paris”. That much.
Why compare BP to the French capital?
Because Paris is not a city. It is The City. It was what New York wants to be centuries before New York, it is Rome with the ruins still standing.
It is hard to visit Paris for the first time. You have already been there through novels, poems, paintings and chansons, through photos and movies. And not just by French authors. Here, in Hungary, our twentieth century poetry was filtered through Paris. We had Ady, who let the Autumn sneak into that city, we had Kosztolányi, who loathed it until the first kiss. So you don’t visit this city. You just return to it.
And boy, how did we return! After high school, we spent a summer in Paris. It was the first city I get to know by feet. We get up early, walked, and wouldn’t stop until dusk. One baguette and the cheapest Camembert was enought fuel most of the days. (We were too young/poor/afraid to drink in the daylight for the wine). We’ve walked through Kertész’s Paris, Toulouse-Lautrec’s Paris, La Haine’s Paris, all the museums from the Louvre to the Pompidue center, the banks of the Sein, and the streets, oh, the streets…
(From another perspective, we just did what tourists do in Paris.)
Paris is also very un-Parisien for me: it was there where I first read the Lord of the Rings, and first fell in love with Petri’s poetry. They will play a great role in my life, and I received it from you, Paris.
So far all of this is about a relationship with a city or, more precisely, the relationship with the idea of the city. You need a closer relationship? Last Friday three of my cousins was on the streets of Paris. When you are living there, it could happen. (They are fine.)
So when you ask why Paris, this is my reply.
It is not about numbers. One victim would be too much. It is not because the people here worth more – they are not. It is because the target was Paris. You could see the same reaction if they blowed up the Eiffel Tower withouth any casualities. (I don’t want to belittle the fact that the real victims were the humans who lost their life or lost their relatives.)
Still, it is true that I care more about Paris than many other places. I bet you have your own Paris, maybe not in France, maybe not in Europe. I don’t claim that my relationship with the city could be compared to someone’s who is living there. But still, last week it was my Paris that was attacked.